• The veracity of public officials is considered a key determinant of public trust in government and a vital concept in good governance.
• In other words, the subject of integrity in service delivery and good governance cannot be gainsaid especially in a developing democratic society.
Following the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, the major issue of concern to the public was service delivery across government institutions.
The framers of the Constitution in their wisdom devoted a whole chapter to address this.
Notably the state and public officers should be subjected to subscribe to the code of ethics as enshrined in Article 73 (Chapter Six) of the constitution.
It is very clear that authority assigned to a State officer
1 (a) is a public trust to be exercised in a manner that
- is consistent with the purposes and objects of this Constitution;
- demonstrates respect for the people;
- brings honour to the nation and dignity to the office; and
- promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office; and
(b) vests in the State officer the responsibility to serve the people, rather than the power to rule them.
The letter and intent in terms of applicability has been foremost matter of a debate that has captivated the public discourse over the years and continues to date.
Renowned author Leo Huberts opines that public service delivery in a democracy should be in line with good values in society. The concept of public institutional delivery offers a potential framework in which these measures and efforts can be brought together, buttressed, and balanced in a principled way, keeping the promotion of public trust and legitimacy as the ultimate purpose.
The veracity of public officials is considered a key determinant of public trust in government and a vital concept in good governance. In other words, the subject of integrity in service delivery and good governance cannot be gainsaid especially in a developing democratic society.
The matters of truthfulness cuts across all stakeholders among the three arms of government — the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, media, religious organisations, business community and the civil society.
Capacity building can be illustrated as the progression of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to endure, acclimatize, and prosper in a fast-changing world.
Some of the relevant capacity building life skills include self-awareness, empathy, critical and creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, effective communication, interpersonal relationship, coping with stress and emotions, innovative mindset and emotional stability.
To buttress the importance of capacity building, skills and integrity are primarily aimed at thwarting corruption and nurturing high values of behaviour. This goes to assist in reinforcing the trustworthiness and sincerity of those involved in strategy decision-making. The aim being to defend public interest and restore self-assurance in the policymaking.
However in most instances when matters of integrity are highlighted or mentioned focus tends to shift in the direction of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
The independent integrity commission had earlier in 2022 published a list of 241 aspirants who had integrity issues and, therefore, should not have been cleared to participate as candidates in the election. No action was taken, despite the red flag raised.
The inaction, which was widely debated in the mainstream and social media platforms, questioned why politicians are not subjected to the same integrity test like the rest of Kenyans seeking public office. The indecision went against the ethos of political integrity.
According to Transparency International, political integrity is stated as that political power exercised consistently in the public interest. The application should be independent from private interests, and not used for power for self-gain and actualisation.
The ongoing public discourse has been on whether we should subject our public, especially political leaders, to the integrity and public delivery test. This should be akin to what is expected of others serving in the private, cooperative, religious, and community sectors.
The question in the minds of the majority of the population is how we can restore service delivery confidence in public institutions.
First, we need to appreciate the fact that optimal service delivery, which is akin to trust, cannot be wholly legislated. Therefore, every institution has to set its standards.
Second, the institutions bestowed with responsibility for clearance of public officials must have clear guidelines that stand the test of probity.
Third, there should be an established institutional service delivery block chain with a clear mandate where any loopholes are clearly identified and addressed.
Fourth, all institutions should be open to scrutiny to establish whether service delivery is optimised in their operations at all times.
Fifth, the principles of ethics in service delivery should be inculcated in our curriculum from early childhood through to primary, secondary education right through tertiary and even up to university. The new Competency Based Curriculum could address this.
Six, the national and county governments should roll out ongoing public service capacity building programmes for their officials at all levels. The same should target the aforementioned skills.
Seven, we must inculcate moral values in our public sphere without fear of retribution from vested interests. Recall the rampant examination cheating of yesteryears and now electoral fraud.
In conclusion, the building of confidence in our institutions requires openness, transparency and value adherence, which can only inculcated without the rigors of being necessarily legislated.
Dr Njau Gitu is an educator and program director AGES Business School